I have to thank everyone for all the incredible responses to my post last week. You warmed my heart and really helped me to feel a bit more okay with all of this mess - and a bit less alone. Trying to welcome a new life is SO not easy, but its a heck of a lot easier with friends like all of you. You encourage me to be honest with where I am at on this journey, thank you for that. I thought today that I would share one of the self portraits from my photographic series I have been working on this year - and the story behind it - as it has become a big part of my own healing as of late. Both creating these images and writing about them has helped me to see myself and my pain in new ways… so I hope maybe this one will do that for someone else out there too….
"I just want to crawl out of my own skin" is something I said often in the first weeks and months after he died. For the whole first year really. Every cell of my body - every hair, every pore, every organ, was reverberating a constant and loud message of denial. Every cell of me, bumping up against the truth at every turn, abrasively, painfully. And then violently pushing and pushing, trying to thrust the truth out of my world. No, no, no, no, no, NO, NO, NO NO, NO!!!… vibrating loudly within every inch of me, trying to fight off a reality too painful, too unbelievable to comprehend. This single aspect of his death has been by far the most agonizing of all.
I have wanted to create this image for almost a year now. Sometimes the visuals come to my mind really naturally, but I find I need to sit with them for a while though, until I feel the time. After a session with my grief coach this week, I instantly knew it was time.
I was describing to him my experience of joining the gym - how working out each day and watching my body change and become stronger has so deeply empowered me on so many other levels. And I said to him… "I feel more comfortable in my own skin than I ever have in my life". He had to repeat it to me in fact, just to make certain I grasped the sheer magnitude of that statement. And he was right… wow. Because just two years ago, I wanted to crawl out of my skin. And now, lately, I have begun to feel more comfortable in it than ever. Even though this whole journey is still confusing as hell and totally scary, I am beginning to feel this solidness in me that I've never had before. That is when I knew it was time to capture this image. To speak about both ends of this… of wanting to escape my own body for how much pain I was (and often still am) in, and for being able to sit within it, strong and solid.
There's something else I feel I need to share here too, because this image spoke further back into my past than just the past few years. I was in an abusive relationship through my early twenties, several years before meeting my fiancé. It was another extremely dark time in my life, and a very lonely one. What I did not expect to find in this image, was part of that story, too. Not only the fear and pain of that past, but also the inner strength that came out of it. Because when I look at the woman in this image… she has not only been through the unbelievable pain of losing the love of her life. She had - at a much earlier time of her life - been pushed and intimidated and made to feel small and forgotten and scared and alone. She had been locked out of her house on cold nights and left with bruises on her arms she had to hide. She had been made to feel worthless and shameful and flawed at her very core.
The woman in this image has been through all of that. And she has fought with every inch of her life for nearly a decade to heal all of these different pains. She has fought to become strong so that she could guard herself well enough to remain soft. Now, almost ten years later, she has become a woman who is not messed with. She's never pushed nor intimidated. She does not tolerate anyone who makes her or others feel small. You have to earn the right to be in her life by proving you have true integrity. She knows her worth, she is not ashamed of who she is or where she comes from, and she knows she is beauty at her very core. She knows how brightly she can shine, and how brightly others can too.
We all have our own story with pain. We all have the battles that we have fought, and are fighting through right now. The pains that break down our doors and leave us battered and bruised. The pain that makes our very foundation of a future crumble and vanish beneath our feet. Even if it cannot be seen on the skin… all of it still lies within me, and within you. I hope that in your pain you remember to stand up when it knocks you down. That you square your shoulders and look it right in the eye. That you are mindful of what you can gain from it - strength, wisdom, and a radiant inner beauty that surpassed anything you ever imagined yourself to be. Much love, battle on!